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The world's most popular health drink

Green Tea

Camellia sinensis Theaceae

Green tea constituents work together to improve blood supply, brain performance, mood, and carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

  • How does it feel?

    Look for the finest quality green tea, perhaps a matcha blend, and in a cup pour on water just off the boil. The colour of the water will move from an immediate greenish-yellow to a darker yellow-brown. Do not add milk or whitener. After five minutes take a sip and note the familiar dry, refreshing taste, only subtly aromatic. If you take this in hot weather, you will also feel the cooling effect of even a hot cup of green tea.

    Green tea is bitter, astringent, light and drying and safe to take regularly over many years.

  • What can I use it for?

    Green tea is a healthy and refreshing daily drink that can be a good replacement for coffee, and may be better tolerated than black tea. There is some suggestion that it can be a useful part of a weight-loss regime.

    For health problems it may best be seen as a long term health and wellbeing measure rather than a quick fix. It can be considered as a preventative against heart and circulatory disease, late-onset diabetes, dementia and even cancer. It is probably best value if you have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and/or raised BMI (body-mass index).

  • Into the heart of Green Tea

    Green tea, particularly its key ‘EGCG’ and other catechin constituents, have extraordinary antioxidant properties in the laboratory (stronger than vitamin C or E). However these are artificial environments and the real impact of antioxidants after consumption, digestion and metabolism in humans has been heavily over-promoted. Nevertheless the catechins in green tea appear to optimize the body’s own antioxidant defences, including via the ‘Nrf2 pathway’. This is likely to explain many of the health benefits of regular green tea consumption, particularly in reducing low-level inflammatory conditions. A very interesting area of benefit is in cases of ‘neuroinflammation’: recent observations that many brain and nervous problems may involve inflammation. A role here could justify the use of green tea, for example in chronic fatigue syndromes and to help prevent dementia.

    A key part of the benefits of green tea are linked to its observed effects on improving the health and integrity of the lining of the blood vessels, the endothelium. It is at this surface that almost all inflammatory processes commence and ‘endothelial dysfunction’ has been implicated in a wide range of inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular problems, dementia and diabetes. Endothelial stresses may even contribute to the effects of ageing on the brain and nervous system.

    Closely linked to this endothelial impact are likely benefits of green tea in reducing insulin resistance and improving glucose and fat metabolism. Modern lifestyles have dramatically increased insulin activity in the body, notably as a consequence of high carbohydrate diets and reduced exercise. Higher insulin levels eventually lead to endothelial and other cells becoming ‘insulin resistant’ with consequent disrupted sugar management and more fat storing. This ‘metabolic syndrome’ is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes and associated cardiovascular problems, increased dementia risks and other long-term health consequences, and is perhaps the dominant health issue in modern developed societies.

    Green tea is also a moderate source of caffeine. Caffeine in this context enhances cognitive alertness and helps to overcome fatigue and lift mood.

  • Traditional uses

    Green tea has been an important part of Chinese, and later Japanese and Korean social life over almost two millennia. The earliest accounts of Tea Ceremonies come from China around 1200 years ago during the Tang Dynasty when the ritual of infusing and serving tea was part of a religious ceremony called cha dao or ‘The Way of the Tea’.

    Outside China tea was brought to Europe in the 16th century and became popular in Britain, with black tea overtaking green tea to become its most popular drink during the 18th century. It was initially promoted through ‘tea houses’ as a tonic and health drink before becoming a popular beverage. The British East India Company introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption, to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on tea.

  • What practitioners say

    All the evidence and traditional usage points to the benefits of green tea being from drinking it regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle. This beverage habit, rather than supplements or practitioner prescriptions, is probably the most practicable option too. However the evidence points to some benefits being seen in only a few weeks and practitioners are likely to recommend drinking more green tea for the following purposes.

    Brain performance: consumption of green tea, preferably as a life-long habit, is particularly helpful to reduce the effects of ageing and illness on cognitive function, memory retention and and other performance. The L-theanine in green tea increases serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, all of which significantly boost mood, indicating it also in anxiety and depression.

    Metabolic: green tea is recommended where there is a slow or under-active metabolic rate associated with higher BMI (body-mass index), belt size and other indicators of ‘metabolic syndrome’ all of which may point to late-onset diabetes and fatty liver problems.

    Cardiovascular: The EGCG’s present in green tea protect the integrity of the blood vessels, so regular consumption is useful in any cardiovascular problem.

    Skin: it has traditionally been used in inflammatory skin conditions associated with hormonal imbalance.

  • Research

    There is considerable evidence for the effects of long-term green tea intake in improving cognitive performance. In a major systematic review of the evidence, involving over 66,000 subjects, there were significant improvements in memory and cognition in those who drank one or more daily cups of green tea regularly.

    Given the likely role of endothelial dysfunction in the origins of inflammatory processes, cardiovascular problems, and ageing, it is noteworthy that there are clinical studies that reinforce the laboratory observations that green tea does improve endothelial function, with wider benefits on the cardiovascular system.

    It is also interesting to note that regular green tea consumption seems to help reduce associated problems of insulin resistance and disrupted glucose and fat metabolism. In a cross-sectional survey of almost five thousand healthy adults in China, between 1-30 cups of green tea per week was associated with lower rates of blood sugar impairment. In one systematic review involving almost two thousand subjects green tea was found significantly to lower fasting blood glucose levels. In another green tea was found significantly to improve measures linked to metabolic syndrome: to decrease weight, BMI (body-mass index), total and low density cholesterol, fat mass, and waist and hip circumference.

    In a double-blind randomised controlled clinical trial of 60 individuals with raised cholesterol levels 600ml catechin-rich green and oolong tea taken daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced antioxidant enzymes and other measures of oxidative stress, with reductions also in body weight, fat levels and BMI. Markers of fatty liver levels were also improved. Green tea was seen in another systematic review of 600 patients with type 2 diabetes, to reduce C-reactive protein levels, one of the classic markers of inflammatory stress.

    The suggested role of green tea in preventing cancer has been boosted by recent research into mechanisms of action of EGCG.

  • Did you know?

    Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world after water, with total annual sales exceeding US$43 billion globally in 2015, more than $11 billion of which is accounted for by green tea.

Additional information

  • Safety

    Green tea consumption is extremely widespread and very safe in moderate quantities. There have been concerns about the safety of high-dose green tea extracts.

  • Dosage

    1-3 teaspoons dried leaf infused in hot (not boiling) water, one to three times a day.

  • Constituents

    Green tea has similar constituents to the fresh leaf:

    • Flavanols up to 30% dry weight including catechins (epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epicatechin (EC),  gallocatechin (GC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and gallocatechin gallate (GCG)); also chlorogenic acid, coumarylquinic acid, theogallin (3-galloylquinic acid)
    • Methylxanthines caffeine (2.5-4.5%), theobromine, theophylline (only traces)
    • Amino acids incl. L- theanine (5-nethylglutamine)

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) brewed green tea contains an average of 126.6 mg total catechins and 77.8 mg EGCG per 100 ml, on the basis of 1 g leaf/100 mL infusion.

    Black tea involves the oxidation of the catechins, enzymatically producing various condensation quinone compounds, including thearubigens, bisflavanols, theaflavins, epitheaflavic acids, which impart the characteristic taste and colour properties of black tea, as well as proanthocyanidins. Most of these compounds readily form complexes, including with caffeine. These complexes are erroneously given the name ‘tannins’: in fact there is no tannic acid in black tea.

    The catechin EGCG translates its powerful antioxidant properties in the laboratory into real benefits by reducing inflammatory damage in the body.

  • Traditional energetics

    • Rasa (taste) Bitter and astringent.
    • Virya (action) Stimulating and cleansing.
    • Vipaka (post-digestive effect) Stimulating and cooling.
    • Guna (quality) Drying.
    • Dosha strengthens vata and pitta, and reduces excessive kapha
    • Dhatu (tissue) Cardiovascular.
    • Srotas (channel) Cardiovascular, lymphatic, hepatic.
green tea illustration
  • Recipe

    Natural Balance Tea

    When our digestive fire is low and our metabolism feels sluggish it cannot transform food into nourishing energy. Instead, food can get stored as fat, starting a vicious cycle where digestion becomes weaker and weaker, leading to steady weight gain. This delicious tea helps to stimulate the metabolism and supports your body to find your natural and balanced weight.

    Ingredients:

    • Cinnamon bark 4g
    • Ginger root powder 2g
    • Orange peel 2g
    • Green tea 2g
    • Turmeric root powder 1g
    • Black pepper 1g
    • Orange essential oil a drop per cup

    This will serve 2–3 cups of digestion enhancing, weight-balancing tea that works together with lots of exercise.

    Method:

    • Put all of the ingredients in a pot (except for the orange essential oil).
    • Add 500ml (18fl oz) freshly boiled filtered water. Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain.
    • Add one drop of orange essential oil to each cup
Aromatic
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitter
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Cooling
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Hot
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilaginous
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resinous
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
Salty
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
Sharpness
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
Sweet
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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